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Scottish waiting times to diagnose bowel cancer show improvement, but more must be done

Tue, 08/27/2019 - 09:58
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Since the publication of Scotland’s National Endoscopy Action Plan in March 2019 fewer Scottish patients are waiting longer than six weeks for key tests that can diagnose bowel cancer. However, two thirds of Scottish health Boards continue to breach the national standard that patients should be waiting no more than six weeks for a lower GI endoscopy or colonoscopy.

The revised Scottish Endoscopy Action Plan, which is backed by a £6 million investment, set out steps to ensure all new patients will be seen within six weeks. These steps include the use of new technologies, additional clinics and extra training for staff to increase capacity.

“The improvement in waiting times for endoscopy is a step in the right direction. However, it is clear that more still needs to be done,” said Claire Donaghy, Head of Scotland for Bowel Cancer UK. “Two-thirds of Scottish Health Boards continue to be in breach of the six week waiting standard, leaving 4,000 patients having to wait too long for tests that could diagnose bowel cancer. This is unacceptable.”

She said that more must be done to achieve the Scottish Government Endoscopy Action Plan’s target of reducing waiting times to the national target and that it is essential that the staff capacity crisis is addressed as part of this, to ensure that there are enough staff trained and available to carry out these vital tests.

“Bowel cancer is Scotland’s second biggest cancer killer, but it is treatable and curable if caught in its early stages,” she added. “In fact, nearly everyone will survive if they are diagnosed at the first stage of the disease. With testing a crucial factor in preventing bowel cancer or detecting it early, it is vital that all patients have timely access to the right test at the right time.”